A new earthquake brought more death and destruction to the same population already hit last 20th May in the North-Central region of Emilia Romagna, extending into Lombardy in the North.
At 9.03 am the earth trembled for 30 seconds, discharging the power stored in the depths of the earth with a magnitude of 5.8. This twin shock was almost identical in intensity to the earthquake that hit only 9 days before and that had already thrown the region into a dramatic state of emergency.
But the shaking didnt stop there. Between 12.56 and 13.00 three shocks in quick succession hit with intensities from 5.1 to 5.4. By evening there had been 100 aftershocks, and the still provisional but dramatic toll was of 16 victims, 1 missing, 350 wounded and thousands of evacuees.
Eleven of the victims were workers whose factories had just reopened on Monday. Some of the industrial buildings were entirely flattened, the structures crumbling like sand. The surviving workers looked upon their destroyed factories in a state of shock. We are the engine of Italy. If our jobs crash under these factories, what will happen to us? some of them said.
The region is one of the most productive in Italy, and for many of these small and medium enterprises to remain closed means to lose work contracts and clients forever. In the last week the fire brigades had gone through hundreds of inspections to allow factories to reopen and the population had been reacting with great resourcefulness. A special parmesan cheese sale had for example been organised on Sunday, to recover at least part of the money lost for all the cheese forms that had been smashed during the first earthquake.
Many entrepreneurs told me I cried for 5 minutes and then I started working again, said Maino Benatti, mayor of Mirandola, one of the small towns in the epicentre of this new earthquake. It will be difficult now to convince people to go back into their houses, so we will have to set up tents for 25,000 people.
The earthquake was felt in all the central part of the Italian peninsula, down as far as Florence and Ancona, and in the whole of the North of Italy, including across the border in Austria. Buildings were damaged as far as Milan and Venice. Schools were evacuated in all the central-northern regions and 400 schools were inspected in Milan.
A 65 year-old-woman that had been buried under 4 floors for 12 hours was luckily extracted alive in the evening.
Fear was the overarching feeling accompanying the thousands of evacuees during the tenth night spent sleeping in the open. My town is terrorised, as everybody else I think, said Fernando Ferioli, mayor of Finale Emilia, the town at the epicentre of the earthquake of 9 days ago, who suffered another death in this new quake.
Until 2003, we werent even on the seismic maps, Mr Ferioli added. We need a precise signal from the central state. We are strong. We want to reconstruct with our hands. We dont need to be flooded by aid, what we need is tax exemption.
Prime minister Mario Monti declared on Tuesday that the state will not leave the populations alone. However, strong worries have been mounting about a recent law by decree that he passed just a few days before the first earthquake hit Emilia Romagna. According to this new law, currently under discussion in Parliament, a drastic reduction in the responsibility of the central government was decided, limiting it to a maximum of 100 days. Afterwards, the reconstruction phase will have to be shouldered by the affected population, through local taxation by the regional government. Indeed, last week the central government declared the state of emergency for 60 days.
It is however difficult to foresee how long the emergency will last, as the seismic cluster is not giving any sign of abating. Since the first earthquake, there have been 800 aftershocks. According to seismologists, under this region runs the buried continuation of the Apennine Mountain chain and a front about 50 km long is causing the current events. There is no telling for how long the current cluster of earthquakes and aftershocks will continue and whether other twin shocks of the same intensity may hit again.